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March 30, 2008

SXSW Diary Part III: Saturday and Sunday

Part III of the SXSW 2008 Diary.  Part I is available here. Part II is available here.

Saturday, March 15 

  • 3:31 p.m.: Leaving Waterloo records, where we caught an interesting back-to-back lineup of Saviours and Times New Viking.  Saviours was a Lüc pick, not my thing.  TNV was my pick, though, and so we figured this was worth the Western trek.  Saviours seemed good at what they do.  Lüc says they're "shred-tastic", so I'll defer to him.  TNV played a solid set, though by now it seems like Adam's voice is starting to get a little tired.  They always bring it, though, and there was a record number of Ohio shoutouts here (ironically, for the first time here, Lüc and I may be the only Ohioans in attendance).

 Times New Viking at Waterloo Records

TNV rocks Waterloo Records as Ringo, Patron Saint of Kickin' It, approvingly looks on. (Bigger pic)

  • 3:40 p.m.: Making the long walk back east on 6th Street.  It's a freakin' awesome day, so I really have no problem walking everywhere.  We're aiming for the Insect Fable show at some bar south of the river.  Neither of us can remember the name of the bar, and we never got an exact address, but I'm confident in my ability to get there.
  • 5:50 p.m.: Ok, maybe I shouldn't have been so confident, because "The Odyssey Where Nothing Happened" just ended.  We walked the 11 blocks or so east from Waterloo Records to get to the Congress Avenue bridge, which I thought was the best way to take.  Then, we walked another 10 or so blocks west looking for the bar, but it was nowhere in sight.  We backtracked all the way back to Congress thinking we'd somehow missed it when we got a call telling us the bar was actually southwest of Lamar, which was essentially where Waterloo was.  Basically, it took us a good hour and forty minutes to get to the bar, and by the time we got there, The Insect Fable had already packed up their gear.  Looking to go somewhere where we could see a bunch of bands without walking anymore, we decided on the Mess With Texas festival-type thing at Waterloo Park.  That required another 20+ blocks of walking . . . forget what i said about not minding the walking.  We made it now, though, just in time to catch Gil Mantera's Party Dream. 
  • 6:12 p.m.: Party Dream's set comes to an end.  Not much is more entertaining than these guys.  While I don't think I would dig their records, their live show (even in daylight) pulls out all the stops.  GMPD continued the theme of Ohio bands definitely being the most psyched about their home state here at SXSW.  Alotta Youngstown pride there.  If you're looking for tight synth dance vocoder pop, Gil and Ultimate Donny are your dudes.
  • 7:22 p.m.: After a few songs of No Age, I'm heading toward the shade to rest a bit (the Odyssey is still weighing on me).  I'd heard a decent amount of hype around No Age, but I came away unimpressed -- too machine for me, I guess.
  • 8:26 p.m.: Just listened to a few songs by Matt & Kim, who by my estimation are a slightly better Ben Folds Five with a synth-organ instead of a piano (in other words, not really that great).  This was kinda a pranks/don't want to walk anywhere catch . . . driving down a Matt & Kim song randomly came up on Lüc's MP3 player.  Lüc told me about seeing them in a basement in Providence, RI, and we spent a good 15 minutes ripping on Matt's lyric in some song that goes something like, "Foul out to center field."  I had given my estimation of what Matt looks like (skinny white dude with black rimmed glasses), and whatdya know, I was right.  After hearing Matt say "stand up, Kim" one too many times, Lüc wins the award for most creative Matt & Kim heckle with, "Less Matt, more Kim."
  • 9:42 p.m.: Filing out after the Breeders set, which was my primary target at the Mess With Texas thing.  I'd never actually seen the Breeders before, so I was looking forward to this, and while the set was predictable, it was good.  Got the hits off Last Splash; "Iris," "Fortunately Gone," and a stellar "Happiness is a Warm Gone" off Pod; a rad "Shocker In Gloomtown" (Kim said, "Kelly and I are from Dayton so we have to play this song."); and "Tipp City" and "Pacer" from the Amps album (a fav of mine).  Definitely decent for my one "big" show of the weekend.
  • 10:03 p.m.: So, once again, we forgot to do any kind of planning for the evening showcase-type stuff.  There are a couple of night parties we're interested in, but it looks like they're all beyond walking distance and I'm not feeling too adventureous right now (I know . . . lame).  Guess we're going to do the ol' "go up to a club and see who's playing" routine again.
  • 10:58 p.m.: Kickin' it at Blender Bar, where Terrible Twos just rocked it.  We'd seen these guys back home a couple of weeks ago, but the pickings looked slim, so we figured we'd go with the safe bet.  It ended up working out, because the T. Twos played a particularly hot set of blistering punk with a sorta metal edge to it.  Totally ruled.  I'm kinda bummed because apparently I missed TV Ghost and Pink Reason earlier on this bill, but if the rest of the bands are anywhere near as good as Terrible Twos, I'll be ok.
  • 11:54 p.m.: Up next was Brimstone Howl.  They played a solid batch of kinda poppy garage punk.  I was down with it.  Of note, for their last song the guitar player played part of the song sitting on the bassist's shoulders.  I always fall for the gimmicks.  Anyways, I'll catch these Nebraskans next time they come through town for sure.  For now, Lüc and I are kicking it with this dude from New Jersey who we later found out apparently is in Home Blitz (another band I'm totally pissed about missing . . . they list the freakin' Mice as an influence . . . next year I have to do some planning for this thing).  By the way, this is the same exact bar where approximately 18 months ago I had my epic 15+ minute argument with two Miller Lite girls where I passionately deflected all of their criticisms of Bud Light (even though I hardly ever drink Bud Light).  Anyway, I'm really geeked up about being back at this historic landmark, so I get my picture taken in the approximate location of said epic argument.

Kickin' it at the Blind Pig

Me: "I want more water in my beer, it means less of a hangover tomorrow."  Miller Lite girl: "Whatever.  Have fun with your watered down beer, and Longhorns rule!"

Sunday, March 16

  • 12:31 a.m.: Just caught Dan Melchior Und Das Menace.  No prior knowledge of this crew, but I totally dug it.  Sorta frantic, guitar heavy rock.  For whatever reason, these songs had some serious wheels and I was into it.
  • 1:44 a.m.: Last on the bill at Blender was locals The Strange Boys.  These kids played straightforward rock, kinda bluesy and downtempo, but I dug it -- definitely a good way to end the night.  This ended up being a pretty good bill.
  • 2:40 a.m.: Back at the homestead after another Whataburger detour.  Estimated time of departure: 9 a.m.  This ride back's gonna suck.

Epilogue

Yeah, the ride back sucked (left at 9:45 Sunday, got home at 5:45 a.m. Monday . . . yeah, work was fun Monday) -- it was pretty boring, actually, save for a stop at a Sonic in Arkansas where they wouldn't let us use the bathroom.  I still think driving's the way to go, if only from an adventure standpoint -- as long as gas prices don't get much higher.

All in all, though, it was a good trip.  Maybe next year I'd like to stay in a hotel a little closer to the action so I don't have to worry about driving to downtown and back.  I also missed a ton of bands that I had wanted to see.  Maybe I could've maximized time better (obviously the Saturday Odyssey killed a lot of prime Saturday free party action), but I still did get to see a shitload of bands.  While I didn't make the best use of the evenings, I think I still definitely proved wristbands aren't necessary if you don't mind sticking to one or two showcases a night.  I think I ended up spending around $350 total (includes gas, food, probably too much beer, door charges, and one t-shirt), which I think is reasonable for a five-day trip (even if pretty much two days were spent driving).

Anyway, for those of you who've never been and want to try it on the cheap, I say go for it.  It can work -- I'm living proof.  Seriously, though, I'm there next year.

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March 25, 2008

Newport's all grown up . . .

Stephen Malkmus and Jicks at the Southgate House

Meant to finish off the SXSW diary tonight, but I got sidetracked, so a quick mention of the Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks show Sunday night at the Southgate House in "all grown up" Newport, Kentucky.  I've already professed my love for Malk's latest, Real Emotional Trash.  Sunday night, Malkmus and the Jicks took a number of tunes off that already excellent record and really tricked 'em out.  Malkmus was on fire during "Dragon Fly Pie," "Real Emotional Trash," and "Hopscotch Willie," and I doubt his guitar playing has ever been better.  Not only did Janet Weiss really hold things together from behind the drum kit, but she also threw in a good helping of nice backup vocals to match -- this was the first time I've seen her as a member of the Jicks, and I was impressed.

Other highlights?  Probably Malk's guitar work on "Baby Come On" and a nice "Church On White" as the first song of the encore.  While we didn't get anything like the fantastically haphazard piano and interpretive hand-dance heavy "Jenny & The Ess-Dog" that they played when I saw them at the Beachland in Cle around five years ago, Malkmus seemed to be in good spirits and was pretty engaging. 

As with Malkmus's brief solo set at the Pitchfork fest last summer, I don't think I was alone in thinking Sunday night's 70-minute show was too short, but maybe that's the mark of a good performer: leave them wanting more.  Maybe Columbus will have an appropriate venue for the band the next time the Jicks swing by Ohio, but if not, I'm making the trip to the border again.

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March 24, 2008

Everyday, dreams come true in Columbus

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, the two NCAA Division I men's basketball teams that matter in Ohio (we all know Cincinnati isn't part of the Buckeye State) will be meeting for an epic clash Wednesday at Value City Arena.  That's right, the University of Dayton Flyers will be making the trek across I-70 to take on the Buckeyes, and I couldn't be more pleased.

Ever since my days as a young pup sitting in a 5 Meyer dorm watching Mark Ashman, Edwin "The Blanket" Young, and Brooks "Shut Up" Hall knock off Kentucky, I've been saying, "Bring on Ohio State."  Now that I hold degrees from both UD and OSU, this is a dream matchup for me.  Will Kurt Huelsman be able to keep Kosta Koufus in check?  Can Jamar Butler and David Lighty slow down the force that is Brian Roberts?  And how many minutes can we expect from Chris Wright, who just might be the best player on the court Wednesday night?

A trip to the (NIT) Final Four in Madison Square Garden is on the line.  Only one team from Ohio will make it.  Who am I rooting for?  If you know me, you already know that this is probably the only time I'll root against the Buckeyes, and that I'm foaming at the mouth at the chance to see my Flyers expose the fraud that is Thad Matta.  Since I've retired my 6th Man and Finnatics t-shirts, I'll be in the house wearing my UD sweatshirt and screaming, "Please, Jet, don't turn the ball over."

For your Dayton Flyers coverage, I suggest Flyers Fieldhouse.  Sure, maybe they go a little over the top with the "Chris(t) Wright" stuff, but they do a generally exemplary job over there (and I admit that I kinda love that they're tagging Wright's comeback "wresurrection").

Dayton. Flyers. Go UD.

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March 22, 2008

SXSW Diary Part II: Friday

Part II of the SXSW 2008 Diary.  Part I is available here.

Friday, March 14

  • 12:03 p.m.: Getting ready to roll.  Word is there's an El Jesus de Magico set at the Trailer Space record store at 1, so we going to park at the Convention Center again and head in that general direction.  Wandering off the map to catch bands from Columbus -- this is SXSW 2008.
  • 12:28 p.m.: For the second day in a row, we're greeted at the Convention Center parking garage by The World's Friendliest Parking Attendant Guy.  He totally rules, and Lüc says he might get a tip tomorrow.
  • 1:17 p.m.: Lüc just got done playing a game of Metal Slug at Trailer Space.  I'm really impressed with their arcade games here -- one thing Columbus record stores don't have is arcade game action.  At least we've got pinball tables at the clubs.  Anyway, time for El Jesus.
  • 1:48 p.m.: Not many people ventured up to Trailer Space.  They missed out on an ace El Jesus set.  I might seem like a dolt for driving to Austin to see a ton of bands from Columbus, but I don't care.  All's I know is that for the half hour or so that El Jesus just played, they were the best band in Austin.  Can't wait to hear the new record.

El Jesus de Magico at Trailer Space Record Store

El Jesus de Magico at Trailer Space. (Bigger pic)

  • 2:48 p.m.: We're at the Vice Party down the street from Trailer Space, and we've just caught Monotonix for the second time.  Seriously, you've got to see this band play.  It looked like the majority of the crowd had never seen the gang from Tel Aviv before, and maybe they were a bit wary at first, but by the end of the first song they were all on board.  There's a lot of security here for whatever reason, and it sure was a hoot to see the guards getting a little uneasy as the Monotonix singer scaled the stage scaffolding.  

Monotonix at the Vice Party 

Monotonix takes over the Vice Party. (Bigger pic)

  • 2:59 p.m.: Across the street, in the Longbranch Inn, the Moonrats have just left the stage.  They were so-so I guess.  Their name prompts me to make a bad joke how I prefer the Lab Rats -- not the Columbus version but the Cleveland version who had a bad cover song on the Cleveland Confidential LP.  Anyway, maybe the highlight of the Moonrats set comes after the set is actually over, when we're standing near their merch table and the girl working it says that she's friends with the guy who designed both Lüc's Big Business shirt and the Moonrats t-shirts.  Like I said, the set was just so-so.  Anyway, speaking of Lüc's fashion sense, Torche is up next, and I'm kinda bummed they don't have any hooded sweatshirts for sale.
  • 3:48 p.m.: Torche just finished.  The bar was jammed, and everyone was getting down.  I don't usually go for this kinda stuff, but Torche was so solid I could help but dig it.  Really good heavy rock.
  • 4:46 p.m.: Saw Jay Reatard back at the outdoor party for the second time.  The set was pretty much the same as yesterday, but he's growing on me.  Still not gonna by the record, but still gonna check out the show whenever the band's in town.
  • 5:11 p.m.: Just heard Tweak Bird at the Longbranch Inn.  A decent heavy, groovy riff-rock band.  Lüc says they're his "diamond in the rough" so far.  A-ok.
  • 5:51 p.m.: Still at the Longbranch, where we caught Wooden Shjips.  I've heard a good amount of buzz around this band, but never actually heard any of their music.  I came in a bit skeptical, but quickly came around.  Nice loopy stoner-psych type stuff.  Somebody told me Horseshit's up next, but the schedule says otherwise.  We'll see who's up next, and maybe head back outside.
  • 6:20 p.m.: Back at the outdoor party, where we caught the end of what was apparently Dark Meat.  It was pretty ho-hum, until for the final song they did a badass cover of "Fun House" with about 30 people on stage.  Lüc refuses to leave Austin without seeing a black metal band, so it looks like we're sticking around for Enslaved.
  • 7:51 p.m.: Enslaved wasn't really my thing.  I think Lüc liked it, but the only thing I really found enjoyable was their keyboard player, who sorta was the sore thumb of the band . . . I guessed that he's somebody else in the band's little brother, and their parents wouldn't let them have a band unless little bro got to play too.  Anyway, after Enslaved's set we were all set to head back toward SXSW central.  As we were leaving the outdoor venue, though, familiar strains are heard from the Longbranch, and Lüc asks, "Isn't that Psychedelic Horseshit?"  It is, so without missing a beat, I dart across the street (amidst oncoming traffic) and into the bar.  It was worth it, as Horseshit was finishing up their second to last song and totally ruled with an extended jam version of "What's In Store."
  • 8:04 p.m.: Walking down Red River, we pass Brian Posehn wearing an Iron Maiden shirt and chatting with his crew.
  • 9:28 p.m.: Lüc and I are enjoying beers at a random sports bar on 6th Street.  What are we doing in a sports bar, you ask?  Without going into too many boring details, we had unwittingly planned our respective evenings using a schedule of last year's SXSW shows.  Since we had written down everything we had wanted to do based on that old schedule before we left this morning, we neglected to bring along any schedule of what was actually happening.  After making a few phone calls to confirm that we had completely messed up the night, we decided to hit a place where we could regroup.  We had noticed Weedeater is playing at the place where I had intended to spend the bulk of my night, we're planning on checking out that.  Actually, the sports bar is a pretty decent place for us to recollect our thoughts in a relatively quiet setting (aside from a large contingent of Rockets fans watching the game).
  • 9:52 p.m.: Before we left, I subscribed to these text message alert thingies, and I finally got a useful one, reminding me that there's an Ecstatic Peace showcase going on tonight.  I had written it down and completely forgotten about it.  When I was living in Pennsylvania last summer, I had actually driven to Philadelphia to see Thurston Moore but couldn't get in because the show was sold out, so maybe this is my chance to make up for that.  We're off to the Mohawk.
  • 9:55 p.m.: Walking down 6th Street, we see MTV's Matt Pinfield perched atop the TV interview crane getting ready to interview some rocker.  The producer's behind the camera encouraging everyone at street level to make some noise.  I comply by shouting out, "You rule, Black Francis" and "Frank Black, I love you!"  I always thought Matt Pinfield looked like good ol' Charles Thompson, so there ya go.
  • 10:15 p.m.: We're in the Ecstatic Peace show.  For those of you keeping score, last night's Siltbreeze showcase cover was $13.  Tonight's Ecastatic Peace showcase cover is $15.  That's $28 for the all the rock I've seen over these two days -- not too shabby.
  • 11:11 p.m.: So far, I've seen Tall Firs and Be Your Own Pet here at the EP shindig.  Tall First were pretty straightforward rock -- not really what I was looking for.  Be Your Own Pet were kinda interesting -- basically high-energy high school punk -- and I was digging the set before the power went out on stage.
  • 11:54 p.m.: Be Your Own Pet just finished their set.  I dunno, after the power situation was fixed and they came back on, I was sorta over it.  They're sorta a one-trick band, and I think the one trick was good for the first few songs, but I guess I got bored with it after that.  I actually was under the impression we'd be getting some experimental bands here, but I guess not (ed. note -- there actually were experimental bands inside the mohawk.  oh well.).

 

Saturday, March 15

  • 12:34 a.m.: J. Mascis's set was great.  Basically the same as yesterday, but with one of my old favorites, "Little Fury Things," as the opener.  I could listen to this guy solo all day.
  • 1:46 a.m.: Thurston's set was solid.  The main set was good enough -- I think he played all songs off his solo record from last year, which I thought was ok.  The band sounded good and the live versions were fairly true to their recorded counterparts, so while there wasn't anything spectacular, there wasn't anything too disappointing.  It was good to see Steve Shelley and Chris Brokaw again, though.  Things really got going during the encores, though.  Setting down the acoustic guitar and getting serious with the electric, Thurston and the band ripped through a sizzling cover of Velvet Underground rarity "I'm Not a Young Man Anymore."  The night ended with Thurston delivering another loud kinetic jam.  So yeah, the last two songs were worth my $15.  I'm heading out now to meet Lüc, who ended up going to that Weedeater show at the Blender Bar.

Thurston Moore at the Mohawk

Thurston Moore kicking it at the Mohawk. (Bigger pic)

  • 2:48 a.m.: Back at the homestead after an action-packed drive back.  Lüc got pretty blitzed during the show at the Blender Bar, so my sober ass had to drive back.  I guess Weedeater ruled, 'cause Lüc is jacked up.  He plugs in his MP3 player and proceeds to shout commands at the Sync.  Trouble is, in his state, Lüc keeps yelling "USB" over and over, neglecting to tell the Sync what to play.  After a while, he finally gets it right with "Play artist Facedowninshit!"  So, there's sober me driving a trashed Lüc through downtown Austin with the windows rolled down and Lüc leaning out of the car screaming, "Man kind is unkind man!"  This lasts for about 10 minutes before Lüc's decided he's had enough Facedowninshit and switches to Regina Spektor.  To top things off, I can't remember how far down we have to go to find our street, so I end up turning around twice before finally getting it right.  On the plus side, I do get serenaded with an extended chorus of "Ron can write, but he can't edit. Edit. Edit."  I'm definitely ready to sleep.
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March 20, 2008

SXSW 2008 Diary Part I: Wednesday & Thursday

A few weeks ago, my buddy Tok casually mentioned that he had no idea what I was doing with my life because it had been so long since I'd done a running diary.  Ask and ye shall receive.  It has been about a year, and I figured South By Southwest 2008 would be a good enough excuse to dust off this super-self indulgent feature of the NBR Blog.

If anything, maybe this will serve as a helpful, if long-winded resource for those who, like me, decide to jump head-first into SXSW without dropping too much cash.  I may have done it as cheaply as possible -- drive down, crash with friends who live in Austin, no wristband/badge, etc.  So yeah, maybe somebody will get something worthwhile out of this.

Without further ado, here it is -- half Bill Simmons/half Mike Watt, the SXSW 2008 Diary:

Wednesday, March 12

  • 5:40 a.m.:  My buddy Lüc and I leave Columbus.  The plan was originally to leave at 5, but hey, you try to wake up at 4:45 a.m.  Mapquest says we've got 1244 miles to drive -- 19 hours or so.
  • 10:52 a.m.:  We're cruising.  Around I-65 Exit 104 in Tennessee, we see the first billboard for Graceland.  If only we had the time to stop . . .
  • 11:55 a.m.:  We pass Pringles Park, home of the Mariners AA-affiliate, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, in Jackson, Tennessee.  As a lifelong Pringles eater who never knew there was a Pringles Park (it actually looks pretty new), I find this a little too exciting.  So far, Tennessee has been fun to drive through.
  • 11:56 a.m.:  Just past Pringles Park, we see signs for the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum.  Another winner.  Tennessee rules.
  • 12:47 p.m.:  After stopping for something to eat (Wendy's . . . where else?), I've taken over behind the wheel.  Lüc graciously volunteered to use his new car for the drive down, probably because his car is, well, newer (and thus more reliable), but also because he has the Sync system that you see advertised on tv all the time.  He's also lifted his "no iPods" ban for his car, and so now that I'm driving I've got my iPod hooked up.  I'm thoroughly engrossed with the Sync, even despite the fact that when I give my first Sync command ("Play artist Psychedelic Horseshit") it totally rejects me.  For the record, after the Horseshit rejection, I test it out with a "Play artist Times New Viking" before getting really serious and saying, "Play track 'What's This Shit Called Love.'"  With Mike Hudson on the stereo, I'm ok.
  • 1:46 p.m.: Leaving Memphis and crossing the Mississippi River.  Maybe I read too much Mark Twain as a kid, but I always dig seeing the Mississippi.  To celebrate, I play "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again," thus continuing my themed Memphis choice of music, which also included Jan & Dean's version of "Memphis" and Pere Ubu's completely different song "Memphis."
  • 3:44 p.m.:  Approaching Texarkana, listening to R.E.M.'s "Texarkana." (I must be really getting on Lüc's nerves.)  As the city approaches in the distance, we pass an exit for an airport and see a skyline in the distance.  Lüc says, "So you're telling me that Texarkana has an airport and skyscrapers?  Is this really Texarkana?"
  • 3:45 p.m.:  It's Little Rock.  We're dumbasses.
  • 5:56 p.m.: We see a billboard that reads, "Texarkana: Where life is so large, it takes two states."  Not a bad billboard.  Given how lame Arkansas has been, we're pretty psyched to see if Texarkana can live up to the hype.
  • 6:32 p.m.:  First hog siting.  Lüc sees one running around in the Antler Lake Hunting Range.
  • 11:45 p.m.:  We make it to Austin.  Pretty much 19 hours on the dot, which is good considering that I made a wrong turn and wandered 10 miles off course at one point.  To our disappointment, Texarkana sucked, as did the drive through Texas.  While in Austin, we're crashing with Lüc's friends Tim and Kirsten, both of whom are totally awesome and totally rule.  Tim's played in a number of bands, and he currently drums for The Insect Fable.  There's a bunch of others crashing there as well, including Boston's The Glow, who immediately earn props for a story about a show some of the guys just saw in a sewer (!)somewhere in Austin.

 

Thursday, March 13

  • 10:45 a.m.: I wake up and start scouring the list of day shows that I printed out from showlistaustin.com, which was a great resource for figuring out what's going on with the free shows.  There's tons of stuff going on . . . it's going to be hard to decide on what to do.  We get word that there's already a line around the block for the Motorhead show at Stubbs, so we'll probably skip that one.
  • 12:27 p.m.: We're leaving for downtown (T&K's place is about 6 miles away).  I also get word that UD is tied with Xavier 41-41 with 14 minutes to go in their A-10 Tournament quarterfinal game.  If UD could beat Xavier, this might be the best three days of my life.
  • 1:01 p.m.: We park at the Convention Center on 2nd and Brazos.  We ended up parking here every day, since it was fairly reasonable ($7 with three free re-entries).  There were plenty of open spaces, so if you're in one of the outlying areas, this might be one of your best bets.
  • 1:21 p.m.: As I fumble through show listings walking down Red River, Lüc has the first Columbus celebrity sighting of the weekend:  Laura B. (formerly) of Night of Pleasure.  She probably has no idea who Lüc and I are, but we think she rocks.  (Turns out half of Columbus was in Austin for the weekend, so this is the first and last Columbus celebrity siting I'll note.)  I just found out U.D. lost, so it looks like the weekend won't be perfect after all.
  • 1:34 p.m.: Finally, the first band.  We just caught Bodies of Water at the Other Music party at the French Legation Museum.  They're ok -- energetic and melodic -- but I start to tune them out after their first song prominently features the tambourine (as a rule, I can't stand the tambourine).  Turns out the first song we hear them play is their last, so I suppose I really can't say too much about 'em.
  • 1:48 p.m.:  We catch the band playing at the other stage at the French Legation Museum.  This is a nice setting for a day show -- a huge, picturesque lawn with one tented main stage and one smaller side stage.  I miss the name of the band and it's not printed anywhere I can find, so I suppose they'll lose their place in NBR Blog infamy.  Whoever they are (bands, please clearly enunciate your names for dopes like me), they're decent, but a little too reliant on repeated grooves for me.  They also seem to be playing the same note on the harmonic throughout their whole set.  Halfway into the second or third song, J Mascis's soundcheck starts to become loudly apparent.  We came to see Mascis, though, so I suppose it's all good.
  • 2:00 p.m.: Mascis nondescriptly rambles up onto the main stage, plugs in his acoustic guitar, plays around with his effects pedals, and jumps immediately into his set.  He plays maybe four songs, mainly mid- to late-period Dinosaur Jr. staples.  The highlight, and apparently Mascis's main focus, is definitely two extended guitar solos.  Using one of those guitar loop effects pedals (which I've consistently despised until J shows how it's done right), he twice lays down the rhythm guitar loop and sings a verse or two before ripping into five minutes vintage Mascis brilliance -- loud, melodic guitar solos.  Definitely awesome.
  • 3:11 p.m.:  At the Typewriter Museum, where we just caught another band whose name I missed.  Lüc wasn't digging their heavy riffs punctuated by a sorta goofy lead singer who apparently looks like the former bassist of Hells Fire Sinners, but I thought they were alright, if mainly for their prank phone call intro and outro ("Are you the person in charge of the Levi's party?  I'm from the Gap, and we want challenge you to a jeans-off on the middle of Sixth Street.")  Anyway, Monotonix is setting up in the middle of the dirt back yard, and I can't be more excited.
  • 3:47 p.m.: Leaving the Typewriter Museum after the Monotonix show.  For those of you who have yet to experience Monotonix, you don't know what you're missing.  Imagine totally awesome guitar riffs accompanied by a fairly standard rock drum groove, all with what might be described as Tel Aviv Damo Suzuki vocals flowing from a ubiquitous lead singer who uses everything in sight as a stage prop.  Maybe some people discount Monotonix because of their "stage" antics, but from my experience (once this past fall at Bobo St), they've got the jams to back it up.  I am totally psyched for this set, and Monotonix exceed expectations.  I won't try to sully the experience by reducing it to words, but I will note that it ended with one of the more memorable finales I know of: about five dudes from the audience hoist the drummer, who is sitting on the kick drum, into the air, where he finishes the last song with hits to the snare and cymbal, both of which are also held aloft by crowd members.  Monotonix rule.

Monotonix at the Typewriter Museum

Monotonix's mid-air drums. (Big pic)

  • 3:50 p.m.: I feel bad for any band that has to follow Monotonix.  With that in mind, we're going to try to score some free drinks rather than jump right into another band.  Supposedly there's free bloody marys at one of the Emo's, so we're headed there.
  • 4:28 p.m.: Leaving Emo's Lounge, where we saw Ghengis Tron.  They were listenable, I guess, though it seems like they're having a hard time deciding what they are, a heavy electro band or a metal band with computers.  I guess the kids like it.  Either way, they're really not my thing.  Lüc, on the other hand, is ecstatic after the Tron mentioned they're playing a showcase tonight with High on Fire and Municipal Waste, both of which he's been wanting to see.  Sounds like he's gonna hit that, while I'm definitely getting into the Siltbreeze show.
  • 4:55 p.m.: Back at the French Legation Museum getting ready for Jay Reatard to take the stage.  Soon after we grab a seat to kick back and enjoy a few beers, a guy with a video camera approaches us and says he wants to interview us for a documentary, apparently about the Other Music party.  We readily agree, but as the interview progresses, it appears the dude is a bit disappointed in us, probably because all we're talking about is Monotonix.  I do deliver one choice quote: "Monotonix is the best band in the Eastern hemisphere, and Times New Viking is the best band in the Western hemisphere."  Another highlight comes when the dude asks us to tell him about Columbus.  Lüc and I look at each other for a moment, start laughing hysterically, and say in unison, "It's the indie art capital of the world."
  • 5:32 p.m.: I'm eyeing the drink table to see if they have any Scotch.  They don't.  In other news, Jay Reatard's set just ended.  Since I had been living under a rock for a few years, I hadn't actually had any Reatard exposure prior to SXSW, other than knowing that there's a good amount of buzz and a deal with Matador.  Anyway, Jay & company played a solid set of high energy melodic punk.  This isn't totally my cup of tea, but I can see why people love this stuff -- it gets the blood pumping.  I don't know if I'd pick up any of the records, but this definitely goes on the list of bands to see whenever they come through town.
  • 6:26 p.m.: Times New Viking finishes their set.  I've sung TNV's praises a million times, so I won't bore you here, other than to tell you that they were absolutely on fire -- it was one of the best sets I've seen 'em play.  Of the shows I've seen today, this drew the best, and while amidst my jumping and fist-pumping I couldn't get the best read on the overall crowd reaction, it seemed like everyone was digging it.  A+.

Times New Viking at the French Legation Museum

Times New Viking owning the French Legation Museum. (Bigger pic)

  • 8:31 p.m.: After a few diversions, I am thoroughly engrossed in the Siltbreeze showcase.  Ex-Cocaine just finished its set.  Pretty tight two-piece (guitar/vox & bongo) drone rock that i really dig.  As could be expected, every band that follows in this diverse lineup keeps the quality level at a maximum.  Highlights: getting to see xNoBbqX totally destroy.  Eat Skull's trash-rock.  Routinely brilliant sets by Horseshit and TNV (though I think TNV's earlier set was the best of the two).  Taking the biscuit, though, was the Mike Rep set, where he was backed by TNV.  He opened and closed with blistering versions of the hits ("Rocket Music On" and "Rocket To Nowhere," respectively), and everything in between was just as stellar.  Killer version of "Village Idiot," and a nice changeup with the "Sugar Sugar" cover.  Rep looked like he was having a great time, and TNV brought new colors to the classics.

xNoBBQx at the Soho Lounge

xNoBBQx at the Siltbreeze showcase. (Bigger pic)

 

Mike Rep & The Quotas at the Soho Lounge

Mike Rep & the (TNV) Quotas wowing 'em.  (Bigger pic)

 

Psychedelic Horseshit at the Soho Lounge

Psychedelic Horseshit delivering the proverbial goods (note the now world-famous crumpled napkin setlist at the bottom right). (Bigger pic)

Times New Viking at the Soho Lounge

Times New Viking putting away the Siltbreeze showcase. (Bigger pic)

Friday, March 14

  • 2:32 a.m.: Back in the car after meeting up with Lüc.  We hit Whataburger on the way back -- highly recommended.
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March 11, 2008

Off we go . . .

Bright and early tomorrow morning, I'll be making my way down to Austin for this year's SXSW.  It's my first time attending, and it's kinda a last-minute deal, so it's sure to be filled with wide-eyed adventure.

I'm going to attempt a sort of running diary.  Assuming I keep up with it, I'll try to begin posting it next Tuesday or Wednesday.  Until then: Rock. Rock On.

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March 07, 2008

A scene from last night

Guinea Worms are onstage . . .

Lüc:  (Points to the stage) Best band in Columbus.

Me:  Yeah.  They make the ass move.

Lüc:  They're the best band in Columbus because they make our asses move.

Epic set by Guinea Worms.  I guess this is old news, but even though "Box of Records" is killer on vinyl, it must be seen live to be believed.  Necropolis, Night of Pleasure, and Cheveu all also rocked.  Hell, the ceiling was coming down while Necropolis was playing.  A+ all around.

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March 06, 2008

Gotta be what you oughta be . . .

Now, here's a nice one.  I'm always a bit biased when it comes to Stephen Malkmus (next time you see me, ask me to tell you how I got really into Pavement), but Malk's Real Emotional Trash is one of the best new records I've heard in this still-young year.

Stephen Malkmus -- Real Emotional Trash

The Malkmus solo records have been decent enough so far.  The first, self-titled one, to me, sounded like a guy moving from fronting one of the most storied bands of the '90's to starting to relax, and trying to find a truer, more personal voice in the process.  Stephen Malkmus was good, and it holds up well (let's see you write a better song than "Jenny & the Ess-Dog"), but I can't shake the sense that these are the songs that would've been on the next Pavement album -- and where's Nastanovich and Ibold?!?!  The next two records, Pig Lib and Face The Truth also have their moments, but at times they seem like Malk overshooting his mark.  In other words, they sound too much like S.M. trying to do something different, and in the process boldly pinning his prog-rock influences onto his sleeve so that the guy we've all known and loved sorta gets lost in the shuffle.  I don't think I'm ever going to be able to fully appreciate "Kindling for the Master," and "1% of One" gets a little too self-indulgent for me.

With Real Emotional Trash, though, it sounds like Malk's found the happy medium.  Listen to the way the bouncy chorus of "Dragonfly Pie" tears into a vintage heavy Malkmus riff.  Sit back as the cascades of "Real Emotional Trash," a 10-minute song that's honestly not too long, go flying by, culminating in a controlled freakout that's maybe the best one of its kind this side of "Half a Canyon."  Check the "I know the tide will turn" refrain in "Out of Reaches."  Ol' Steve's got something good going here.

S.M. pop-rock fans (like me) are certain to have the "So much for the curb appeal / so much for the three-course meals" part of "Gardenia" stuck in their heads for days, much like a grown up version of "I Love Perth."  "Elmo Delmo," on the other hand, sounds like the song he's been trying to write for the past three records, driving and meandering at the same time -- a sort of dense but insistent Malkmus epic.  "We Can't Help You" is a keeper, and "Wicked Wanda" puts a nice bow on the whole package.  I guess the record as a whole showcases Malk and the Jicks getting comfortable with each other as a unit, as it seems like Malkmus is in his element here while also getting the extra touches from his bandmates that he wouldn't be able to throw on there if he were doing everything himself.

This isn't to say that Real Emotional Trash isn't a challenging record.  It takes a few listens to get a handle on it.  After all, it is a 10-song, 60-minute record, and there is a fair amount of noodling on there that may turn off some people.  Still, I think this may be the best solo outing Malkmus has given us to date.  People need to stop worrying about a Pavement reunion -- trust me, all you gotta do is grab a beer and put "You're Killing Me" and "Home" on really loud and everything will be alright.  If you're looking for something new, though, now's your time to maybe think about hopping on board again.

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March 01, 2008

Even Superman had his off days

Robert Pollard - Superman Was A Rocker

I've said before that I don't like to write about albums I'm less than enthused about, but given that this is one I was particularly looking forward to, I feel like I've got to say at least something.  Superman Was A Rocker is the new record (well, new as in released last month) from Robert Pollard.  Billed as a mini-LP (it actually clocks in at 30 minutes, though some of that is between-song incidentals), Superman is a collection of old instrumentals recorded mostly during the GBV-years updated with new Pollard vocals.  In theory, you're getting vintage GBV material featuring an older, wiser Pollard up front.  In actuality, it's more like a bunch of stuff from the cutting room floor topped off with a little bit of icing.  Keep in mind, the songs are coming from one of the best cutting room floors in rock history, but you're not getting grade-A, long lasting gems here.

Viewed in its best light, Superman comes off as a half-hour broadcast that would've fit well on WYSO or Flyer Radio back in the day -- a loose, sorta free-flowing broadcast featuring GBV outtakes from deep within the famous Pollard suitcase.  The record has a good helping of interludes from DJ Turiel and some drops from Pollard (once we hear "Hey Nashville, you feel like letting your freak flag fly?" and later Pollard posits, "You know, well-behaved women rarely make history").  The highlight of the between song banter (maybe of the whole record?) is a recording of Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell gleefully handling a call from Northridge, Ohio GBV detractor Hiram Campbell at the begining of "Back To The Farm."  Is Hiram legit, or is he really Pollard or a Monument Clubber? I dunno, but either way it's funny when he says, "The Highwaymen're better than you guys."

Interludes aside, the songs are what you expect to hold up a Pollard record.  There's nothing really great here, though.  The "Back to the Farm" instrumental is nice enough, and "Love Your Spaceman" (the "Farm" instrumental with vocals) is ok.  "You Drove the Snake Crazy" has its catchy, poppy moments.  "St. Leroy" might be the best one, a plaintive piece in the mold of Pollard's sparse vocal/acoustic guitar outtakes.  I guess "Another Man's Blood" and "Peacock," both haphazard rockers, are decent, but they drag on too long.

I'm sure some hard-core Pollard fans will find this one worth repeated listens, but it's not for me.  I know Pollard still has the goods -- the two records released on Merge last year are keepers, and his show at the Southgate House in December proved he can still kick it live.  This one strikes out for me, though.

I guess I've sunken into my "only get the major releases" phase in my GBV/Pollard record-buying life.  I know there are people who pretty much exclusively listen to Pollard stuff, but that's never been me, even circa '96.  Maybe what I want to say is that Pollard should keep putting out all these records -- people really like them, and he, more than most, should have creative license to do whatever he wants and make a living off of it.  I'm not one who says he should focus his efforts on putting out one great record a year -- the world is probably somehow a better place for Pollard putting out a record every month or two.  The thing is, there's a lot of music out there, and a lot of it is great, and I've realized that records like Superman are beyond my attention span.

Anyway, if the new Psycho and the Birds record is really unbelievably fantastic, let me know . . . .

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